Columbia, SC – Many patients who would benefit from medical marijuana have no viable treatment for their pain and suffering other than highly addictive, cost-prohibitive pharmaceuticals such as opioids. Treating chronic pain and illness with opioids often results in a devastating, family-wrecking, life-ending addiction.
This is a tragedy playing out daily across our state, and it is one that can be, and should be, avoided.
For six and a half years I served as the chief federal law enforcement officer for South Carolina. I have seen firsthand the devastating effect the opioid epidemic has had on our citizens, and I can report that we will never incarcerate our way out of this public health crisis.
The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of medical marijuana for the treatment of a wide array of illnesses has been recognized and endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences. And The American Journal of Public Health has found that opioid use and deaths associated with opioid abuse dropped dramatically in states that legalized access to medical marijuana. Because of the opioid epidemic facing our country, it is important to note that medical marijuana has a history of zero fatalities due to overdose.
Until Feb. 23, the only legitimate issue of concern to S.C. legislators in deciding whether to pass a medical marijuana bill was the lingering uncertainty regarding the Trump administrations position on medical marijuana. Thats when President Donald Trumps press secretary Sean Spicer said the president sees a big difference between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes. The administration indicated that, while it plans to increase enforcement of laws prohibiting recreational use of marijuana, it will allow states to legalize medical marijuana without federal government interference.
The bills pending in the Legislature would make medical marijuana available to patients facing specific diagnoses, and access to this medication would be limited by law to patients who have a prescription from a licensed physician.
The Academy of Sciences has documented something that patients have known for a long time: Medical marijuana helps ease the suffering and pain of those with illnesses, and it does so without the highly addictive pitfalls of opioids. Now we have learned that the last rational objection to legalizing medical marijuana has been cleared.
Soldiers who have served our country and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder and adults and children who, through no fault of their own, are suffering with pain and illness deserve the right to treatment prescribed by their physician that is a non-addictive, cost-effective medicine.
With the Trump administrations endorsement of medical marijuana, only irrational fear with no data or facts to back it up stands between patients and the treatment they need in South Carolina.
It is time for democracy to work. The State reported in October that 78 percent of South Carolinians supported medical marijuana. That means 78 percent of South Carolinians Republicans, independents and Democrats believe that unfounded fears should not stand in the way of effective treatment in the form of medical marijuana.
We must demand that the officials we have elected to represent us and our values approve medical-marijuana legislation that reflects a fact-based understanding of this effective treatment and compassion for those in need. We must encourage our legislators to be brave, to have faith in the facts and to not succumb to irrational, non-fact-based fear.
Call your legislators today and encourage them to vote for the medical marijuana bill pending in the Legislature.